In honor of Women in Horror Month, I have a question- How do you prefer your spiders? A) hanging from a thread two inches in front of your face, or B) hidden under your pillow waiting for you to sleep. There are no wrong answers. It’s all about personal preference.
There are plenty of horror tales, both long and short, penned by women. Some readers favor graphic and gory images. Some like subtle, slowly building drama while others like a good psychological thriller where the hero or heroine gets a good mental shredding.
Whether the story is full of sharp, terrifying images or takes a more subtle approach in its telling, what makes a horror story (or any story) great for me is how hard it hits me. The words don’t need to flow like song lyrics and the structure doesn’t need to be set to follow a specific 325 page formula. If I’m still thinking about the story days or weeks after I finish it, then the story definitely got to me, and I appreciate that.
Because I’m a little warped out, and also because I’m a writer, I like to find a small slice of horror in the most everyday, mundane sort of things. I like to twist the elements of something that seems sweet on first glance to show that the sweetness can be a shell, a candy coating hiding a whole lot of badness. The illusion of sweetness can be a fluffy pillow sitting on top of a fat spider waiting to crawl out onto an unsuspecting, exhausted woman as she has her first pleasant dream in months. I can’t help but ask the “what if” questions about what lies deeper, what kinds of things a shiny, glossy image blurs and works to hide.
Driving past a quaint suburban neighborhood, I imagine the possible strangeness that goes on behind the walls of the houses. And then I laugh at my simple theories because what goes on behind the walls of the houses I drive past could be so much weirder than I ever imagined. I want to read the true stories masquerading as fiction!
FEBRUARY CHALLENGE: Horror isn’t simple gore and guts. The genre can be so much more. So this month, I challenge you to write your own scary story. It can be a paragraph, a page, or even longer if you wish. Then, get together with a few friends and share stories. Remember the tradition of telling scary stories by the campfire at Scout camp? Like that, except, since we’re all grown, we can have a glass of wine or line up whiskey shots at our horror parties. And there’s no need to sit outside by an actual fire and get eaten by bugs. Best of all, you can use as many curse words and as much violence as you want in your story, because you make your own rules. Have fun terrorizing your characters and scaring your friends!